San Marcos GrowersSan Marcos Growers
New User?
Wholesale Login
Enter Password
Home Products Purchase Gardens About Us Resources Contact Us
 Web Site Search
Plant Database
Search by Plant Name
  General Plant Info
Search for any word
  Advanced Search >>
Search by size, origins,
color, cultural needs, etc.
Site Map
Retail Locator
Plant Listings


 Weather Station

Products > Plants - Browse By Region > Koelreuteria elegans ssp. formosana
Koelreuteria elegans ssp. formosana - Chinese Flame Tree

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.  

Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Sapindaceae (Soapberries)
Origin: Taiwan (Asia)
Flower Color: Orange Red
Bloomtime: Summer/Fall
Synonyms: [Koelrutaria henryi]
Height: 25-40 feet
Width: 20-30 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 15-20 F
Koelreuteria elegans ssp. formosana (Chinese Flame Tree) - This is a semi-deciduous tree that typically grows to 40 feet tall. The 2 foot long leaves are bipinnately divided into many 2-inch-long toothed leaflets. In late summer (September here in Santa Barbara), the clusters of small red centered yellow flowers smoother the entire tree and are followed by the formation of inflated one inch long papery fruit capsules, that resemble Japanese lanterns that are green initially but quickly deepen to reddish pink and later to pale salmon pink. It is so showy in fruit that it also has the common name Bougainvillea Flame Tree since the capsules resemble the large bracts of a Bougainvillea. Plant in full sun and give deep, infrequent watering. It is hardy down to about 15 degrees F. Koelreuteria elegans, which had also been known as K. henryi and K formosana comes from Taiwan and Fiji and most recently the plants from Taiwan are now considered to be K. elegans ssp. formosana while the Fijian one is K. elegans ssp. elegans. The name for the genus honors the German Botanist Joseph Gottlieb Koelreuter who was a the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg when the Finnish naturalist Erik Laxmann described the genus. The specific epithet is from the Latin word meaning "neat" or "elegant". There are beautiful examples of this tree in Santa Barbara, often mixed with plantings of Koelreuteria bipinnata from which it differs by having smaller, less coarsely toothed leaves that are glossy and have a prominent elongated tip, has darker red colored fruit and is leafless longer. In the nursery trade these two species are often confused. The tallest tree in Santa Barbara is adjacent to McKinley Elementary School and measures 53 feet tall. We grew this tree from 1995 until 2005 and still have a specimen tree planted in front of our accounting office. We discontinued production of this beautiful tree because it reseeds a bit into surrounding plantings and because of industry confusion between it and the coarser Koelreuteria bipinnata.  This description is based on our research and observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery garden and in other gardens that we have visited. We will also incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have some additional information about this plant, in particular if this information is contrary to what we have written or if they have additional cultural tips that would aid others in growing Koelreuteria elegans ssp. formosana.